Let Us Never Speak of This Again: A Kind of Gross After Effect of Childbirth Nobody Really Talks About

When you have a kid, everybody warns you about certain physical changes that may occur. Droopy boobs. Stretch marks. Peeing when you cough or sneeze or laugh too hard. (Actually, they should make this part of high school sex ed. Show them photos of actual post-partum bellies and feet and veins, the way they show what happens to your lungs if you smoke. Call it “Appalled into Abstinence.” Do they do that? I don’t know, I wasn’t allowed in sex ed, and my kid hasn’t been through it yet).

But nobody really talked about certain other things. The fact that your hair can go permanently curly, or straight. You can get allergies, or lose them. Hormones are whack.

And nobody really talked much about hemorrhoids.

If you don’t want to know about this, close your browser window and never return. You’re about to get slapped in the face. With knowledge!

Basically, when you push out a baby, sometimes you also become the new proud owner of these little veins that, I guess, are supposed to be somehow lining the interior of your rectum, but fall out because of the intense pressure of pushing out a 99th percentile-headed child.  And these things can worsen with age, more babies, and too much Chipotle (South Park! Did you see that episode?). Let me tell you, it goes without saying that I am never going to go the way of Backdoor Teen Mom Farrah, not that I was going to ever (yeah, I wouldn’t Google that if I were you and you haven’t heard of that yet. Some things you can’t unsee).

Anyway, these things were always hanging around and vaguely irritating me.  That is, of annoying conditions, they were far down on my list, so I ignored them for years. However, I am a writer. I don’t know if this is apparent, but most of my time is necessarily spent sitting on my derriere. And I complained about them a fair amount. “Just go get them cut off!” Cadillac advised after about, I don’t know, nearly fourteen years of hearing me whine. He just wanted me to stop talking about it, really.

So finally, I did what the commercials say: I asked my doctor about them. Now, my doctor is a pretty unflappable guy. I think I’m his youngest patient. Most are elderly, ancient, and every time I go in, somebody calls about someone’s pacemaker stopping, or somebody’s having an irregular heartbeat, or somebody’s shouting at the nurse because they don’t have the kind of candy they like. And the doctor just goes around calming everyone down and calling ambulances and stuff like that.

To give you an example of who he deals with, once not long ago I was in his waiting room between two old people who were having an ailment contest. “I sprained my wrist!” the woman said, holding aloft her scratched up hand. “I fell into the roses.”

“That’s nothing. I fell into a ditch,” the man said, holding up his mangled, bruised leg.

“God. The hardest part of getting old is getting old,” the woman said.

“Don’t I know it. You’ll know it too one day, young lady,” the old man said.

“I sure hope so,” I said.

Anyway, I thought my doctor might tell me they were No Big Deal, like he had for a lot of other things I’d worried about; because in the Great Realm of Ailments, they weren’t as bad as a stopped heart or a bad liver; but instead when he drew aside the paper blanket, he drew in his breath. Like there was a monster growing down there. He tsked gravely. “Yes, these are quite bad,” he said in a mournful way. “You shouldn’t have to suffer.”

I clutched my heart. They were way worse than I’d thought! I whipped out my phone and texted Cadillac as dramatically as I could. They’re sending me straight to surgery!

The doc tried to send me to the proctologist, but the insurance wanted me to go see the general surgeon instead.

I went happily enough for my consult not immediately, but a few weeks later. Just a consult, I said to myself. No big deal. I will drive home after this and make dinner. The nurse told me to put on a paper gown and lie on my side. I kept hold of my phone, surfing Twitter while I waited.

I was actually feeling pretty happy. My mother-in-law had picked up the younger kids. My older kid was on her way to a game with Cadillac. This surgery trip was a break! Maybe I’ll stop at Target after this, I mused. Oh, yeah. I loved a good solo trip to Target. I waited impatiently for the doctor.

The general surgeon knocked and sprang into the exam room like one of those small deer that live in the rocky mountains. He was a Chinese man with a slight accent. Chipper, I tell you, as I lay on my side in that paper robe.  “Hello, Mrs. Dilloway, how are you?” he sang out.

“Great,” I said, clutching the back of my paper robe closed. Because, you know, you’re always great when you go see the doctor. Well, I was kind of great at the moment. Target was waiting.

He asked why I was there, and I told him. His face took on a mask of seriousness as he considered my problem.  “I’m just going to take a look now.” He snapped on his gloves. “Stay where you are. I’ll be quick.”

“Okay,” I said.

He put the spotlight on me and held out his hand to the nurse. She plopped a great glob of gel onto his fingers. Oh. That kind of look.

I held my breath as he fished around. Thank God his fingers are small, I thought.

“Hmmm,” he said. “I would call these very minor. You don’t really have to do anything about them.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling oddly disappointed.  I kind of wanted them out now. Was he not going to do it? “But, my general doctor said they were kind of bad.”

He hesitated. I could see the wheels spinning. Surgeons like to cut, don’t they? I was here, wasn’t I?  “But, you know,  if they bother you, we can get rid of them. My wife has those too. I feel sorry for her!” I wondered why his wife hadn’t had them taken care of– shoemaker’s wives and all that. If my husband was a doctor, he wouldn’t be able to work because I’d be asking him to fix me up all the time.

He went on to tell me the treatment options. One, he could rubber band the things, which cuts off blood supply so theoretically they disappear. Or, I could go to the hospital, get put under, and have them cut off, which would require a two week recovery or so. Or…I forget what the other option was. Each one could be successful, or not. Nothing was sounding that appealing. Especially not the surgery.

“In fact,” he said cheerfully, “we could do the rubber band procedure RIGHT NOW.”

What? I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t even Googled all the procedures he mentioned. I hadn’t read the reviews! How could I do something like that unless I read the reviews first? I didn’t even have time to complain to Cadillac! I needed support. “But I came alone,” I said. “Can I drive after?”

“Sure,” he said. “No problem.”

No problem. “Will it hurt?” I said suspiciously.

“No,” he said. Then he paused and amended himself. “Well, maybe a little. Most people don’t feel any pain.”

I should be old enough to know that when a surgeon says it’s not going to hurt, it means…it’s going to fucking hurt. At least, it is going to hurt me.

But I didn’t really want to go into the hospital and get general anesthesia. I didn’t want to sit on a donut for two weeks, bleeding bright red out of my rectum. Stiches, everything. Ouch.

I wished I’d never complained about them.

I wished I’d just gone to Target.

I inhaled, weighing my options. Do it now, here, and get it done; or extend this misery some more? “Okay,” I said at last.

“Good,” he said, and nodded at the nurse. She whipped open a drawer and started banging out surgical implements like they were just WAITING for me to come in. Just all sterilized and ready to go! Like he did this every single hour. She pulled out more and more tools, setting them on a shiny stainless table. Sharp objects. Things I’d never seen before. Things that looked like medieval torture devices.

I stopped looking at the tools. “You’re going to do it in here? Right now?” It looked like a regular exam room.

“Sure,” he said, still hella cheerful.

He told me to lie on my belly and pressed some button on the table. Suddenly, my hips went up and up and up and my face slid toward the floor.  I could feel my face turning red as the blood rushed to it. I wondered if they sold these tables in specialty stores, too, maybe the kind where Teen Mom Farrah shopped.

I thought nothing naked or having to do with butts could faze me, not after three kids. But with my rear high in the air, I felt exposed. I was suddenly possessed by the very real fear that I was about to pass some gas. Well, Cadillac would find that an amusing story, at least. it would be like something out of a Monty Python movie. But nothing happened.

He got out a shiny metal speculum-thing. It actually looked more like a large apple corer with rounded edges. I turned my head away, wondering what would happen if, say, things got messy. I really wished I hadn’t seen all the instruments spread out on the steel tray table. “Now, you just relax,” he said.

Dammit. I clutched my phone in my hands.  I briefly considered live Tweeting this.  I could tell the surgeon to say cheese, take a picture over my shoulder of his overly cheerful face. Better yet, I could video it, put it on YouTube. Maybe it would go viral! Maybe I would be on the Today Show. Who gives a shit about your books, let’s talk about your hemorrhoid operation! 

I held up my phone. “Okay if I hold this?”

“Sure,” the doctor said.

I lost my Twitter courage. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for this kind of live Tweet. Yes, we’ve seen people lose their lives, but this hemorroid thing was going to make them lose their freaking minds. I opened up Candy Crush instead. There was a level I’d been stuck on for two weeks. This could be the time. “Okay. I’ll just be beating this level here while you’re doing that.”

They laughed.

“Here we go,” the doctor said. “Relax.” Again with the relax. I fought the urge to turn my head to see what he was doing.

I felt pressure. I did not like it. I slithered forward a little.

“Stay still!” the doctor said.

I focused on the game. Candy Crush, Candy Crush, Candy Crush.  Line them up, win. Line them up. Suddenly, I won the level. “I won!” I crowed.

“Good job,” the surgeon said.

But then there was more pressure. Twisting.  A lot of it.  Tears came into my eyes. “Ow,” I said. The room spun. My heart pounded in my ears. Can’t you pass out from having your head down for so long? “Ow, ow, ow.”

“It shouldn’t hurt,” he said. “It really shouldn’t.”

Yes, you saying that will REALLY MAKE IT NOT HURT.  It took everything I had not to run away. My vision went black around the edges. I probably said more, choicer words. I don’t remember.

It was like the time on our honeymoon when we went to a waterpark. We went down one of those super tall, super long enclosed slides. Turns out I’m claustrophobic. “GAME OVER!” I screamed. “I DON’T WANT TO PLAY ANYMORE! THIS ISN’T HAPPENING!” I’m surprised my husband could hear me over his laughter. Anyway, I couldn’t remember saying anything, only yelling.

I couldn’t even work the Candy Crush things on my phone. You know it’s bad then.

“Almost done with the first.” I heard a rubber band snap. “You want to sit up for a minute before we continue?”

HE WASN’T EVEN DONE!!  My stomach, pressured from the table, lurched. I got that hot feeling you get right before you hurl. “Um. I’m going to barf. I think,” I said. My voice an echo from far away. They lowered the table to flat.

The nurse handed me the vomit tray (why did she have it so close? Very suspicious. Like this was a possibility. I thought this didn’t hurt!).

“The pain should not be so bad,” the surgeon said again. “It’s in your head.”

I lay down on the table and curled into a ball, willing the room to be still. I took a breath.  “I gave birth to a baby without meds,” I said. “This is worse.” It was true. At least when you’re having a baby, you’ve got a simple task with a reward at the end. Your body knows what to do and you’re helping it. It’s not having stuff done TO it.

“It’s all mental,” the doctor said most helpfully. “Yes, I think it’s just a mental block.  You’ll be better. You want to try another?”

What an optimist this guy was. So I’m mentally tough enough to give birth to a baby without meds, but not to get this TOTALLY NOT PAINFUL EASY-PEASY procedure? Harrumph. “No thank you,” I said.

“Well. That’s okay, too. If you ever change your mind, you can come back. Or go to the hospital. Yes, I think hospital might be better for you.” He patted my leg and left.

You think?

The nurse brought me some water. “Do you want me to call somebody to pick you up?”

I shook my head. “Well, maybe. I’ll call him.”

“Okay. Take as much time as you need.” She smiled at me. I liked the nurse.

I waited until she left the room, then called Cadillac. Immediately I began blubbering.

“What happened?” he asked. “What did they do to you?”

I blew my nose.”THEY TRIED TO KILL ME!” I told him everything.

But he was taking our kid to a game. “Well, I could come, but we’re almost at the game. So I’ll have to come all the way back there. Do you need me to come?” he said, clearly implying SUCK IT UP. “What’ll we do with your car?”

“I don’t know.” I sniffled, feeling sorry for myself. “I’ll just drive home myself.  I’ll probably crash. I almost passed out. If I DIE on the way home, tell the kids I love them.”

He sighed. “No, I’ll come get you, even though we’re almost at the game.”

Now, later he clarified that he meant he was TOTALLY willing to come get me, but he was almost at the game, so he might as well drop off the girl first; and the car thing was merely him wondering aloud what we would do. But it sounded like he was telling me to Suck It Up and I stand by my version.

By this time, I’d finished my cold cup of water and was sitting upright and really was feeling somewhat better. I didn’t want my daughter to miss the game. Motherly guilt. “No. No. I’ll make it. I’ll  take surface roads.” I blew my nose again. “I have chicken defrosting. I’ll make baked potatoes, too. Don’t worry about it.” Now I was being a martyr on purpose, but I couldn’t help it. 

“Are you sure? Because I’ll come get you right now.” Now he sounded somewhat concerned. Which is REALLY ALL I WANTED.

I blew my nose again. Was this really all in my head? But I’m tough. The baby! The no meds! I’m like steel. “I’ll be fine. Really.”

“Call if you need me,” he said. “I’ll get you.”

Like if I had an unexpected procedure with unexpected results? Double harrumph! “Okay.”

I waited a while longer, then got dressed. I walked shakily to the restroom. Going to the bathroom also hurt. Another thing nobody mentioned.  “Do you need a ride home?” the nurse asked me again.

“No, I’m fine.” I was set on being stubborn now. I walked back to my room. I drank more water and gave myself a good pep talk. I will go slow. I will take surface streets. If I need to, I can just pull over. No problemo.

I walked down the stairs of the office building. If I fell here, then I’d get a ride. I made it. Easy-peasy.

I drove slowly home. “All in my head,” I whispered to myself, my stomach contracting.  I got into bed. “All in my head,” I said, as my stomach evacuated itself (another side effect not mentioned– I Googled it).

I stayed in bed until the next day. Cadillac came home and made me soup.

I went in for my follow-up two weeks later.

The nurse, a different one, took me into the Room of Shame. “So, what did you have done?” she asked.

I told her. “But it hurt, so I couldn’t finish.”

“I should think it hurt!” She widened her eyes. “Wow. I can’t believe they’d do that here!”

Finally. Sympathy.

“I know!” I said. “Right?”

“I don’t blame you a bit,” she said.

I almost hugged her.

Anyway, I hope these kids appreciate all we mothers go through for them. Really. Maybe they’ll put this essay in a sex ed textbook one day.  I can only hope.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

2 thoughts on “Let Us Never Speak of This Again: A Kind of Gross After Effect of Childbirth Nobody Really Talks About

  1. Oh my!!! I just about peed myself! And I didn’t know they made tables like that… scary! I have a mild case and will just leave them the hell alone after reading this….. Feel better soon!

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